Saturday, February 24, 2024

Still Life with Robin: A taste of Paris in Cleveland Park? Mais non, le goût de Nantes!

Photo by Fresh Baguette 
by Peggy Robin 

On Wednesday I went to the Grand Opening of Cleveland Park's new cafe, Fresh Baguette. Despite the crowds (converging for the announced baguette giveaway, I'm sure, as well as from a desire to check out a new eating spot!), the long line moved quickly, staff members were pleasant and efficient, and all the choices looked so tempting. 

The display cases were filled with baguettes and many types of loaves and croissants, most of them warm from the oven. Now we can live like the French, right here in our neighborhood. 

Well, I have French relatives and have spent some time with them in their homes, and one thing I love about their lifestyle is the way it's so normal to pick up a fresh baguette on the way home from work -- so many people walking home with a baguette under the arm. Fresh baked every day -- that makes the sensuous, yeasty aroma of bread one of the everyday glories of France. 

But I wasn't reminded so much of my relatives in Paris as my time spent visiting my daughter for the year she lived in Nantes, in the northwestern province of Loire-Atlantique. Nantes is a medium-sized city with much less hustle-bustle. Yes, there are bakeries on every corner so that people can get their daily baguette, but when it comes to food, it is known as the home of a particular brand of cookie, produced by the famous LU factory. 

Here's your mini-history lesson from the LU website (UK version) 

LU’s story begins in 1846 and in true French style, romance played a key role in their creation. In the city of Nantes, Jean-Romain Lefèvre and Pauline-Isabelle Utile fell in love over their shared passion for baking and their desire to make the most delicious biscuits. Putting the first initials of their surnames together, LU was born.

Thanks to the excellence of Lefèvre-Utile’s recipes, the biscuits factory gained a stellar local reputation. In 1882, LU even won the gold medal during the Nantes Exhibition.

Over 176 years later, LU remains an icon of French culinary heritage.

So here's what I noticed the first time I walked into Fresh Baguette: I scanned the long narrow shop and my gaze quickly fell upon the back wall, with shelves of so many different packages of LU cookies --many of them hard to find in the US-- I felt as if I'd walked into a shop in Nantes. And like any small French specialty shop, there were just a few shelves of the products, all very prettily arranged. 

Besides the LUs, there are different types of jam in jars, some pates, a little sac of French sea-salts in large crystals, some chocolate bars.... None of these things are listed on the website, which features the breads, the sandwiches, quiches, macarons, madeleines and other pastries and desserts, and the coffees and other beverages. See: 

They cater, too! 

I wish I could say this is going to be my daily little taste of Nantes.... but malheureusement, I have recently been put on a low-carb regime and I'm sticking to it. But for all those who are not.....bon appetit!


Still Life with Robin is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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